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"Schools are not data-processing centres": Irish bishops want 'balance' in discrimination debate

Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin has promised to amend Section 37.

Catholic Schools Partnerships File photo of Fr Michael Drumm Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE HEAD OF the Catholic Schools Partnership has called for “balance” in the debate over Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act – which allows religious schools discriminate in employment practices.

“Schools are not data-processing centres,” said Fr Michael Drumm, chairperson of the group, which is run by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

They are among the most notable of human institutions where parents want their children education in accordance with their convictions and traditions.
Those who propose to amend [Section 37]…should keep in mind that schools do not exist primarily to employ teachers, but to assist parents in the education of their children.

Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin announced last month he would be changing the legislation to close the loophole which allows religious institutions to discriminate on the basis of teachers’ personal characteristics such as sexual orientation and marital status.

The consequence of this Act can have a chilling effect on concerned workers who are divorced or are single parents, as well as members of the LGBT Community, as it can mean that they cannot be open about their status in their workplace.

Citizenship Ceremonies . Pictured Mini Minister of State Aodhán Ó'Ríordáin Source: sam boal/Photocall Ireland

“In education, it denies many young LGBT people role models, as their LGBT teachers cannot openly identify their sexuality,” the Minister of State at the Department of Justice said at the time.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, though, Drumm said Irish bishops “accept that some amendment of Section 37 might be welcome.”

All groups are present in Catholic schools, as parents, students and teachers, and they are welcomed.

Tiernan Brady, policy director at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), told TheJournal.ie that any reform of Section 37 “must make it clear to teachers that they will not be denied a job or promotion simply because of who they fall in love with.”

The problem with [the position of the Irish bishops] is it suggests that someone’s innermost personality is a negative thing.
And it does create a chilling effect – we know this is a real problem. Every teachers’ union has said this is a real problem.

Read: It will soon be illegal to discriminate against gay teachers>

In Your Words: Being a gay teacher in Ireland>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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